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For the Restless
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Black and white photo of Nikita Bridan lounging on chair next to the Half11 race car prototype

Restless Spirits: Nikita Bridan, Co-Founder, Oilstainlab

Restless Spirits: Nikita Bridan, Co-Founder, Oilstainlab

One half of the twin duo behind some of the wildest builds we've ever seen, including our Alpine Alfa, Nikita is a friend who truly embodies the restless spirit AETHER is known for, which is why we had to kick off our new series with him. Watch our sit-down with Nikita above and then check out the extended interview below.

Tell us about the name Oilstainlab.

It's the name of our company; it started as an idea, back in 2012. We had just graduated, we'd started working as car designers, and we were living in downtown LA. We were going to do some stuff with oil, like paint, paint a painting or something, and then it slowly morphed into something bigger. So “oil" is the lifeblood of a car and in many ways a gearhead, it runs through your veins. "Stain" came from once you have an oil drop in your driveway it's kind of kind of screwed, right? It's really hard to get rid of. In many ways that also gets into your blood or into your soul. And once you're a gearhead, you don't really stop loving machines or cars or speed or anything. And then the "lab" portion of it was the creative aspect of it. So that was kind of an experiment, sort of for fun, just trying new things. Yeah, that's that's kind of the the way the name came about and it's sort of stuck.

Red OILSTAINLAB type on old cropped racing film of racer

You are family, you are brothers, but most notably you are twins. What does that bring to the table in regard to operating a business and creating a brand?

I think it's very fruitful, for us, we've always worked really well together. It's obviously a very intense relationship, and it has some friction and some sparks, occasionally. But we've lived all our lives together, we know how to get over those things. I think there's just a certain freedom to say the truth and if something's not up to par. If it's not good enough, you just say it and we don't really get offended. But yeah, it's great. I can't imagine doing any of this without my clone.

Man pulling race car prototype out of shipping container onto snowy road

Speak to the kid that wants to grow up to do what you do, what do you wish you had heard when you were young?

I mean, I grew up in rural Canada, I only learned about car design when I was, I think, eight or nine. Sometimes I have to pinch myself with all the experience and all the things we've seen and done and stuff that's far, far, far exceeded my expectations. As a kid you just want the opportunity to experience that, I think. So, I would say, if it's your dream to learn car design, I think there's never been an easier time to learn it. There's YouTube, there's all these schools online, everything. So it's all very accessible now. Get stuck, fail, learn as much as you can before you hit 18, and know in the end it's a lot of hard work too. So just keep your head down.

Portrait of Nikita Bridan sitting on a chair in a racing uniform
Black and white motion blur of racing car

Name a few of your builds please.

So Oilstainlab was founded in 2019, eight months before Covid hit and Half11 was this idea for us. We really wanted a car that would scare us, but also it was good for the business—it's the ultimate business card. Oftentimes, car designers are just sketching their drawings. You crumple up the piece of paper and the idea is gone. But we wanted something real, something scary, something tangible, and just something different. It's like the DNA of Oilstainlab is the Half11.

As sort of crazy as Half11 is it really had a lot of fundamental, I don't want to say shortcomings, but it was fundamentally limited in terms of its scope. We deliberately tried to keep it within our skill set at the time; when we started the project, we had no idea how to weld, fabricate, body shape... nothing. So our next project, we refer to it as No Excuses. It combines everything we know from the OEM world and mass manufacturing, different materials, and all that stuff combined with kind of what we've learned with the Half11. Really excited for when it'll come out.

Oilstainlab's Half11 prototype race car in modern interior room

What’s your next “Last Bad Idea”?

So, we did the the “Last Bad Idea” is kind of a catch phrase for us—we always think the next ideas are the best ideas—and so we've embraced it. But really, the road trip we did from LA to New York [last] September, we nicknamed that the “Last Bad Idea”. The car had only done 80 miles prior to that trip, that was the longest trip it had ever undertaken. And we decided, let's go 3200 miles across the country, let's take a film crew with us. You know, let's raise the stakes, and also add a very fancy car show that we need to be at. So, yeah, the “Last Bad Idea” was born and it turned out to be one of our best ones.

The Half11 race car at a gas station in the country

What makes a bad idea good?

We kind of embrace the bad ideas, right? We kind of embrace the ideas that no one else will do, the ones that are immediately dismissed. Oh, it's too expensive. It's too this, it's too that—it's easy to do that. So we try to embrace the really bad ideas no one will touch and then kind of flip them on their head. It sort of is what makes us unique.

Tarantula in foreground and Hall11 prototype race car in the background
Man wearing race jumpsuit with lettering that says OILSTAINLAB - Research & Development, Long Beach CA

AETHER has worked with you since our beloved Alpine Alfa, how did you approach that build?

Superfun project, lots of cool ideas at the start. Finally settled on that Alfa. I mean, again, we really tried to sort of make something really unique. At the time, safaris were pretty popular, they were happening. We really just tried to approach it from like a 200, 300ft view, like what you see first when you're just approaching the car or it's going through the mountains. And so we added the wheels and the tailgate and added some things to change the silhouette. After that we kind of zoomed in together with the AETHER crew and they had ideas on some of the accessories and stuff. You know, make it look awesome from the usual 50ft view.

AETHER's Alpine Alfa car in a desert landscape

What's the importance of having taste when designing?

Design, taste, aesthetics... blessing and a curse. You know, I think if you have a very curated eye, it can sometimes be difficult in this world. It's interesting because design and taste, they're kind of going through this AI revolution right now. It's like almost anyone can create content. But is it good? And do you know why it's good? Do you know why something's bad? That's very important. But again, it's never been easier to sort of formulate a brand or build something using even assets that you haven't created. I mean, we love AETHER because of your taste. For us, design is pretty much everything.

Portrait of Nikita Bridan flipping up the sun lens on his glasses
Closeup detail of race car wheel

Let's talk about your other ventures, @i.burn.bridges and House Dé Stains.

Apart from Oilstainlab, we're always looking for other sort of creative things, creative outlets to work with. So recently, we started House Dé Stains, and obviously just by its name, you can kind of understand it's a little bit of our sarcastic take on French fashion. We're we're not necessarily trying to burn the establishment down, but we are definitely having some fun with it. We think a lot of brands in the space, especially with motorsport being very popular right now, every big company comes out with inauthentic collaborations. And so we're just trying to bring back a little bit of, I don't know, a baseline of authenticity and lifestyle. It's not pretentious, it's a little bit tongue in cheek, a little bit witty, a little bit sarcastic. So yeah, that's about it.

Photos courtesy of Oilstainlab.